Editorial

Digital identity to be focus of biometric development, says research

Biometrics Institute survey finds biometrics will be the key enabler for anchoring digital identity – there will also be growth in mobile remote identity verification systems and onboarding

Posted 20 July 2021 by Christine Horton


Digital identity will be the main area of significant biometric development over the next five years.

That’s according to the Biometrics Institute’s latest annual industry survey.

More than nine out of 10 industry professionals agreed that biometrics will be the key enabler for anchoring digital identity. They also said that there will continue to be significant growth in mobile remote identity verification systems and remote onboarding technology.

Most respondents (63 percent) think that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of biometric solutions, with three quarters thinking that new solutions and technology will be critical in managing this and future pandemics.

In the health area, most (60 percent) thought that biometrics should be used internationally to provide the necessary identification assurance for vaccine certificates with few (14 percent) actively disagreeing. There were divergent views as to whether health protection will be more important than privacy protection over the next few years – 39 percent agreed, 32 percent disagreed and the remainder were unsure.

Governance and transparency

In contrast last year, a higher proportion of respondents thought that the use of biometrics is growing too rapidly for existing controls to be effective (48 percent).  As with last year, those in Europe were the most likely to feel there is already sufficient legislation in place, with those in regions outside ANZ, Europe and the Americas more likely to feel the legislation is on balance not strict enough.

When asked specifically in which areas legislation should be tightened – policing/law enforcement; commercial uses; and social media and political use all topped the list, selected by around 60 percent.

Regarding the public debate on whether a ban or moratorium on police use of face recognition is necessary, only around one in ten agreed, with a large majority of 64 percent disagreeing.

However, two thirds of industry professionals agreed that a lack of transparency from organisations in their use of biometrics causes public distrust, with only 12 percent disagreeing with this view.

There was strong agreement (79 percent) with the premise that any biometric implementation must have human rights at front of mind. By the same token, nearly three quarters (74 percent) agreed with the principle that there should be no conviction, denial of service or presumption of wrongdoing solely based on an automated system without human decision making (‘a human in the loop’).

Testing is critical

Opinion was divided as to whether biometrics are now more vulnerable to spoofing attacks than ever before – approximately a third thought this to be the case, a further third disagreed, and the remainder were uncertain.

Similarly on the highly debated issue of demographic differentials, there was a range of opinion: 36 percent agreed that the issue of demographic differentials in face recognition is overstated but this was counterbalanced by 28 percent who disagreed, with the remainder uncertain.